22/08/2019

MLAs Pen Letter Supporting Brexit Backstop

A cohort of assembly members have penned a letter to European Council President Donald Tusk expressing their support for the Brexit backstop.

49 pro-remain MLAs, including leaders of the SDLP, Sinn Fein, Alliance and Green parties, signed the letter supporting the controversial backstop, as contained in the withdrawal agreement.

Of the 90 MLAs elected to Stormont, representatives from the DUP, UUP, TUV and People Before Profit did not add their name to the plea.

While officials from the EU and the Republic of Ireland have said the backstop is a non-negotiable measure, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has repeatedly stated it must be axed if a deal is to be reached.

The cross-party group expressed their "grave concerns" about the current trajectory towards a no-deal and the potential impact on Northern Ireland's community cohesion, border and local economy.

The Northern Ireland Civil Service has warned that 40,000 jobs may be lost in the event of a no-deal Brexit, while British government analysis has predicted significant disruption to integrated supply chains across this island, rendering cross-border trade in the local agri-food sector virtually impossible for many operators.
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The letter continued: "It is our view that the progress made in developing integrated and enduring relationships on this island, politically, economically and socially, over the last 20 years is far too important to abandon. Particularly at a moment when those relationships are being tested.

"With that in mind, and with no functioning Executive or Assembly currently in place in Northern Ireland to give expression to the democratic wishes of people here, we write to you to confirm our support for the backstop contained within the Withdrawal Agreement and Political Declaration. It is our view that a legally operable guarantee to protect the Good Friday Agreement, maintain north-south co-operation and preserve the all-island economy and to prevent a return to physical infrastructure on our border or physical checks at or near the border is necessary to preserve the progress that we have made.

"We trust that the approach adopted by the European Institutions to defend all that we have achieved will continue in the weeks ahead."

The UK sits ten weeks away from the current Brexit deadline. The Prime Minister has repeatedly said it will go ahead with or without a deal and rejected the "anti-democratic" backstop, which he said will undermine peace in Northern Ireland.

Following a meeting with Angela Merkel this week, the German Chancellor set a 30-day deadline for an alternative solution to the backstop.

President Tusk also released a statement via Twitter saying that anyone who opposes the backstop without proposing any "realistic alternatives" risks the reestablishment of a hard border on the island of Ireland.



(JG/CM)

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